On November 14, 1960, four federal marshals escorted six-year-old Ruby Bridges to her first day of first grade as the first Black student to attend previously all-white William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Ruby Bridges (1998) is a 1998 television film, written by Toni Ann Johnson, directed by Euzhan Palcy and based on the true story of this significant point in the history of the United States.
Admittingly, I know the absolute bare minimum about ‘Ruby Bridges’, and I can only imagine this is the case for a majority of citizens in the United States; With that said, ‘Ruby Bridges’ is recognized as being extremely accurate in its depiction of the figures involved, and I am happy to report that I have actually learned something new about people I'd never previously heard about; without going into too much detail there are two (white) individuals in particular that provide Ruby a substantial amount of emotional support - both a teacher and a psychiatrist - and their separate contributions are substantiated without suffering from what is recognized as a trope in films called “white savior syndrome.” I do wish some minor details about Ruby’s first year in this integrated school received more attention - like, fun fact, she had perfect attendance - but that is just me speaking from experience after being encouraged to do some research about what is now clear to me as a commonly neglected subject in the realm of film and cinema.
Made - for - television movies are easy to scoff at; they are far from cinematic masterpieces and can amount to what is nothing more than a mind-numbing experience. Despite this and other constraints, 'Ruby Bridges’ leans on performances that are authentically sound and screen-writing that is reflective of a large amount of research regarding the source material and its overarching context; the tension, anxiety, losses, and sacrifices made by Bridges and her family are palpable without being dramatized and are ultimately emotionally compelling (if given a fair chance to be!).
A Disney movie at heart - it’s fair to assume that ‘Ruby Bridges’ was made with children being their target audience; because of this there are aspects that are easy to nitpick, but they are also comfortably forgiven. Many of the conversations had about heavy topics - racism, therapeutic interventions (amongst other things) - are extremely on the nose and can seem a little juvenile. In practice, however, these moments are opportune moments for parents (and educators) to segway into conversations with their own children that may be difficult to initiate otherwise. In addition to this there are moments (especially towards the end) that are considerably C H E E S Y, but these are included without undermining the seriousness (and the message) of the overall story.
As an advisory: There are moments included meant to depict real life death threats (and expletives) that were experienced by Bridges in real life. They are brief but are also markedly disturbing - as they should be.
I know from personal experience - as a Caucasian viewer - that a smoke screen of privilege may make some question the relatively (and importance) of films such as this, so I will just leave with a couple of points:
A) Ruby Bridges is still very much alive, and she is only 66 years old; that alone speaks for itself, but assertions that the Civil Rights movement happened long enough ago that it is no longer affecting generations of people that are still alive are just. . .incorrect.
B) Historical biopsies are made with the intention of capturing points in time (and personalities) that are inspirational, culturally significant, and potentially educational. Watching this movie didn’t make me feel incredibly moved or engaged, but it was strong enough to make me feel 𝓽𝓱𝓪𝓷𝓴𝓯𝓾𝓵 for Bridges and her bravery during what had to have been an unimaginably difficult time.
‘Ruby Bridges’ is made with a passion - albeit, a rather silent one.
A fantastic supplement for difficult discussions for educators and care-givers that is academically sound!
I would recommend!